Emily Chambers’ straight-up rhythm and blues blossoms on ‘Magnolia’

Tuesday 06th, December 2016 / 15:54
By Colleen Rennison

Emily Chambers hit the ground running with the release of her debut solo EP, Magnolia.
Photo: Michael Clarke

VANCOUVER — The overwhelming feeling I get as I talk to Emily Chambers, who I’ve caught on the phone from the road somewhere deep in the heart of Brooklyn, is that she does whatever the fuck she wants.

A Berklee College of Music voice program drop-out (“I didn’t wanna be 150k in debt and have a performance degree.”), she quit her full-time insurance job after three years of employment and has been on the road living out of her van, Bessie, for 66 days on a tour of the US. She booked the tour herself to support her five-song EP, Magnolia, which she independently released in September.

“It’s a sign of feminine beauty and perseverance,” she says of the title, citing the departure from her R&B band project, Champagne Republic, as large reason.

“It was a big thing for me to walk away.” I ask her if it makes an appearance on the album, in the form of a lyric or something. “No actually,” she replies. “It has nothing to do with any of the songs.” Perfect.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be taken by the flaxen haired bombshell, whose sultry no-bullshit brand of classic soul and R&B reminds me of a cross between Diana Krall and En Vogue. She hits that flirtatious and subtly tongue-in-cheek showmanship reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer in the Fabulous Bake Boys on the head, but with real pipes and a real band to back it up.

“For the most part it’s all live-off-the-floor. We did three days of bed tracks and I sang with the boys, I really didn’t overdub any vocals,” Chambers says.

Joined by boyfriend and Washboard Union-er Brendan Krieg on drums, Wynston Minckler on bass, Alexander Flock on guitar and Tyson Naylor on keys, the album has a lovely intimacy and a stunning accuracy to the live performances I’ve seen. This is likely due to having John Raham’s touch on production at Afterlife, now moved into the legendary Mushroom building that was built as a studio during the time that “live-off-the-floor” was the only way to record.

Unsigned and un-managed (though perhaps not for long), Chambers is the real deal for those of you who like your rhythm and blues served straight up.

Emily Chambers performs at Guilt & Co. December 14.

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